Look out Agenda. Move over Surf Expo. There’s a newer kid on the beach: Boards and Waves Expo. The third installment of the Boards and Waves show, paddling out on June 3 and 4 in Melbourne, Florida, cements a real sweet spot for this consumer-focused Expo that turns its focus away from the fashion associated with the sport and, instead, celebrates the work of surfboard builders, paddleboard makers, accessories and ocean-inspired art. Unlike the bigger brothers who typically shun the public, Boards and Waves Expo is expecting over 1000 consumers in its two-day run. The cost is just a $5 donation with partial proceeds funding ocean-related causes as well as the Melbourne High School surf team. We had a chat with Dave Seehafer, the Director and Founder of the expo to learn how he turned his 30 plus years in the industry into a show with over 80 exhibitors and growing.
What’s happening this year at The Boards and Waves Expo?
This year, we will honor Pete Dooley from Natural Art Surfboards and Dick Catri from Catri Surfboards, two of the oldest surfboard manufacturers on the East Coast and two of the biggest in the entire nation at the height of their production--both based here in Brevard County. Brevard County is not only the home of the world's largest surf shop, Ron Jons, but also the surfing world's 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, as well as other top pro surfers over the years. This Expo is the ultimate chance for the consumer to get face-to-face insight and information with shapers and board craftsmen to chat about board design, technology, materials, fins, foam and more to give them the power and confidence in buying their next surf or paddleboard.
Why the location (other than the obvious beach surf ties, of course)?
Brevard County is considered the "surfing capital of the East Coast" for some of the reasons I stated as well as having, at one time, the East Coast's best and most consistent wave, Sebastian Inlet. There are more surfboard shapers and board builders here in Brevard than any other county along the East Coast.
What made you decide to start the show?
I've worked in the surf industry for 30+ years in many roles, have relationships with surfboard shapers all over the world, and simply love surfing and surfboards. After attending the very first Sacred Craft surfboard show in California with a few surfboard shapers from the East Coast, we were talking about how great it was, how much it was needed for board builders since they are among the hardest working people in the industry, working under toxic conditions, producing handmade/custom-made surfboards for a very small profit. They don't do it to be millionaires.
They shape because they are craftsmen, they love surfing and, without surfboards, the rest of the industry (apparel, accessories, etc.) would be much less valued. They needed to be recognized, represented and put in the limelight that they deserve and this is the goal of my Expo. One of the East Coast's top shapers, Ricky Carroll, looked at me and said, "You need to do this.” I thought about it for a moment and decided that an Expo absolutely needed to happen here on the East Coast, and that I have the management skills, industry relationships and passion for surfboards to make it happen.
What opportunities and growth do you see in the surf market? Both in boards and gear and in surf clothing?
Surfboards, boardshorts, surfing and the related mindset and lifestyle are now recognized globally. The sport now has true male and female athletes that serve as role models for today's youthunlike the "Spicoli image" of surfers that was characterized years ago. It is indeed a lifestyle far beyond simply paddling for waves. The energy of the ocean and waves becomes an essential part of most people's being. They travel around the world in search of waves and, in so doing, become exposed to a variety of cultures, foods, ideas and more. In short, once a surfer, always a surfer!
What sorts of brands have you gotten support from? Who are your top exhibitors?
My focus is on board builders, surfboard shapers, craftsmen of surfboards and paddleboards. The second focus is on the related accessories and materials like fins, foam, leashes, bags, sunscreen, wax and more.
How, in your opinion, do surf brands get noticed in today's market? And how can they continue to grow and address consumers?
Regardless of the product category, today's market and consumer is inundated by advertising and marketing 24/7. One of the main reasons for this Expo is to allow the board builders and shapers the opportunity to talk directly to consumers, giving consumers real information, answering specific questions about board volume, bottom contours, fin design and more. Since 2005 (when Clark Foam closed), there has been an explosion of newness in terms of surfboard design, materials, technology and more, leaving the consumer with more choices and more confusion than ever before. It is my hope that this Expo helps reduce the choices and confusion for today's consumer.
For more information on trade shows check out DFV Group’s expocheck.com.